As the weather cools in the high mountains of California, the small golden-mantled ground squirrel prepares for a winter’s hibernation. But do the clues for the cold winter ahead come from the temperature or from something internal, something in the animal itself. Eric T. Pengelley and Sally Asmundson capture pregnant females in the mountains and bring them back to the lab where they are raised in a controlled environment. Will the offspring who have never been outside, go into hibernation when the calendar tells us that it is growing colder in the mountains? These and other questions are explored in this film. The hibernating animal’s heart is barely beating and it to appears to be dead. The animal has reduced its body to near the temperature of the freezing environment. When the squirrel is warmed and aroused, it appears to have fits of muscular action. All animals who go into hibernation come out of it several times during the winter and then go back into the hibernation state. Can humans hibernate? Might there be a way to induce hibernation for lengthy space journeys or as a cure for cancer?
Produced, written and directed by: Thomas G. Smith
Academic collaborators: Eric Pengelley and Sally Asmundson
University of California at Riverside.